Nationals A Success for SCC Spikers
Sandhills Community College volleyball coach Alicia Hill considers her program’s inaugural appearance at nationals a success.
The eighth-seeded Flyers rebounded after two losses in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III volleyball championship tournament in Rochester, Minn., to capture a five-set win over sixth-seed Herkimer County Community College (N.Y.) to finish seventh in the nation Saturday. It capped off an amazing run for the team, which also won region and district championships this season.
Miranda Love was named to the all-tournament team, which Hill hopes will strengthen her case to be selected to the All-America team. Hill was presented a plaque commemorating her selection as District H coach of the year.
Hill said upon returning from Minnesota that she hopes a trip to the national tournament will become a yearly tradition.
“Overall, I think our trip was a great experience and a success,” she said. “Back in September, I had a talk with the Davidson (Community College) athletic director about them going to nationals the year before, and he said it’s nothing you can prepare for, and that is indeed true.
“Everyone that makes it to nationals deserves to be there and is good. The level of play is more fast-paced than a lot of teams we play, which is why I scheduled a lot of Division II teams this year with the hopes of making it to nationals.”
The Flyers drew top-seeded Brookhaven College, the two-time defending national champions, in the first round of the tournament — no easy task. Hill said her team was the smallest team in the tournament, and knew Brookhaven would be bigger and possibly quicker.
“We came out against Brookhaven very flat and I felt like we never competed to our level against them,” she said.
The Flyers lost in straight sets, 12-25, 12-25, 13-25.
Paige Horne had 16 assists, Love had nine kills, Sarah Thomas had 10 digs and Kathleen Wood had two blocks.
In its second match Friday afternoon, SCC fell to fifth-seeded Nassau Community College (N.Y) in four sets, 14-25, 25-22, 22-25, 23-25.
Love led the way with 18 kills and 29 digs. Horne had 22 assists. Wood and Thomas registered three blocks apiece.
Hill said the team was “a little defeated” after the two losses, but thinks the nervousness started to disappear before Saturday’s seventh-place match against Herkimer. She said she told the team she didn’t care if they were swept in the match as long as they played their game.
“Against Brookhaven we didn’t play our game,” she said, “against Nassau we competed and just didn’t finish, and then on Saturday, we rose to the challenge of being the first team ever from our district to win a game at nationals. All season long, we have been good at going five games and finishing, and that is exactly what we did on Saturday against Herkimer.”
Sandhills won the first set 25-20 and then fell in the second 21-25. After edging out Herkimer 25-22 in the third set, the Flyers again lost a close one 23-25. But they grinded out a 15-11 fifth-set win to capture the match.
Love had another huge game with 26 kills and 33 digs. Horne had a whopping 47 assists. Thomas had 27 digs, 12 kills and four blocks. Michelle Brown had 31 digs and Wood had four blocks.
Later that day, second-seeded Ridgewater College (Minn.) clipped Brookhaven in five sets in the national championship game.
Hill said that her squad received a lot of compliments from their competitors at the tournament. She’s still amazed that the team was able to make it to the tournament, finish seventh and have an all-tournament player in just the program’s third year.
“I think by our accomplishments this year, our volleyball program has indeed made a name for itself,” she said. “Now we will be moving forward with recruiting and using everything that we learned at nationals to prepare for our next trip back.”
Hill said that she and the team will have a better understanding of what to expect next time around. She hopes that this year’s freshmen will come back bigger, stronger and faster to help power the team back to the tournament next year.
But the team that won 10 straight matches to secure the program’s first trip to the tournament will always be one to remember.
“I think each one of the girls stepped up and played an important role in getting to nationals and being at nationals,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of all 11 of them.”
Contact John Krahnert III at email@example.com.
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